Hi! So here we go with my first DIY blog! Starting with a simple project which has been an organizational and aesthetic game changer in my office: a 3-shelf bookcase! I have been needing something to keep papers, design books and magazines, business cards, etc. close at hand while I am sitting at my desk and my desktop or the floor around it have been a cluttered stressful mess of these things for months now- a small bookshelf to fit the nook behind my desk was just the ticket and honestly, it was way more simple than I thought!
Here are the before and after shots:
2’x3’x1’ DIY Bookshelf
(Please note: all links below to items I personally use in my projects are affiliate links that may generate a small commission should you purchase that item or from the web-site linked)
- One 1x12x6 pine board (cut in half for two 3’ side pieces)*
- One 1x12x8 pine board (for top, bottom, and two shelves)*
- One ½”x2’x4’ pine board for the back*
- Kreg Screws
- Brad nails
- Wood glue
- Wood filler
- Sandpaper for electric sander
- Sanding block (I buy the majority of my sanding blocks from Dollar Tree)
- Dust cloth
- Paint or Stain (I used Sherwin Williams’ Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in a custom color to match the trim in my office) If painting I would use a wood primer too (I used Sherwin William’s Multi-purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer) Sherwin Williams' paint and stain is 30% off until 1/18/21!
- Measuring tape + Pencil
- Miter saw
- Kreg jig
- Circular saw
- Brad Nail Gun
- Electric Random Orbit Sander
- Hand saw
*I made this unit to fit the space between my office window and wall so your exact measurements of wood may be different than mine.
Start by using your miter saw to cut the outer square of your bookcase.
Cuts: Two 3’ pieces and two 2’ pieces
I used a Kreg jig to attach all pieces of this bookshelf through the creation of pocket holes. Pocket holes allow for solid connections through the creation of specifically angled guide holes for a screw to attach securely through and into another piece of wood. Because my top (and bottom) pieces sit on top of the side pieces, it is necessary to use the Kreg jig to pre-drill into the 3’ side pieces. Follow instructions provided with your Kreg jig (there are also a ton of great Youtube videos!)- but here is a quick summary here:
- Set your Kreg jig and drill nut to ¾” (the depth of your board)
- Securely attach your jig to the board where you want to drill the holes (this is very important so the jig does not move while you are drilling)- my pocket holes are placed about 1.5-2” away from the edge of each board (see photos)
- Set your torque to a higher level on your drill and drill the holes!
Use 1 ½” Kreg screws to attach your boards in the outer rectangle shape- this is where corner clamps would have been helpful (if you have a favorite corner clamp, let me know below- I’m still on the hunt)!
I then placed the ½”x2’x4’ piece on the back of my bookcase and marked how long I needed to cut it (it was just over 3’) and used my circular saw to trim it down to size. I sanded this piece down before attaching it using 120 then 220 grit sandpaper on my orbit sander. Use brad nails (or this phenomenal battery powered nail gun like I did) to attach the back to the outer edges of the bookcase.
I had some struggles along the way (you know this if you followed along live on Instagram) because for some reason the boards had gathered some moisture in the garage (I am chalking up to changing temperatures?) and cracked slightly as I started screwing them together. Long story short at one point I had to take the bookshelf apart and switched out the top board for a piece I was going to use as a shelf. Not so easy with brad nails in for the back. What to do when your brad nails are stuck from a nail gun? Pliers, a strong grip, and crowbar-like levering movements are helpful if you encounter this (like I do, nearly every time I use it… practice makes perfect though!)
I then measured the inside width of my bookcase and cut the two shelves using the miter saw.
Using the Kreg jig again, I made four pocket holes on each shelf (as pictured, two on each side) and again used 1 ½” screws to secure the shelves onto the bookcase. Note: I did not use wood glue to secure the shelves or outer shell of the bookcase because the pocket holes/Kreg screws should be strong enough of a bond without it. I also (just now realized) did not use wood glue for the back… here’s hoping I don’t regret that. Probably would have been a good idea with using nails and not screws.
My least favorite part of any project came next… sanding. I started by using wood filler on the knots in the wood and any other cracks between boards. An electric sander makes the process of sanding so much less painful. I started with 80 grit sandpaper to get out some of the rougher patches (like smoothing seams between boards and the seam between the back of the unit and sides) and then moved from 120 to 220 to 320. (The lower the number of sand paper- the rougher the grit… the higher the number the smoother the paper and smoother your surface will be! Mine felt like butter after I was done which allowed the future paint to sit smoothly on the surface.)
As an afterthought after a trip to the hardware store to buy supplies for diy-ing picture frames- I decided to add trim around the edges of the bookcase to give it a more polished/custom look. I’m so glad I did- it was such a simple addition that made all the difference! I used a handsaw to cut down the trim (you could use a miter saw if you like- I just didn’t want to drag mine out again) and cut the pieces so that the squares of the trim pattern would line up at the top (where eyes will linger the longest because of the decor that will sit on top of the bookcase). This trim is also about ¼” wider than the boards of my bookcase- so I placed the trim so that it would have a lip towards the bottoms of the shelves and the inside of the sides (see the picture). I used wood glue and my brad nailer to secure the trim. I intentionally placed the nails in the center of the squares of the trim patter because I knew I could fill them with wood filler to make them disappear. After securing the very bottom piece of trim, I again used my electric sander with 120 grit to make it even with the bottom of the bookshelf. I was very nervous about this but it sanded so smoothly and easily!
Finally, I added wood filler to the gaps and nail holes made by adding the trim and used fine grit Dollar Tree sanding block to smooth away the wood filler and rough patches on the trim between the squares. I love Dollar Trees’ sanding blocks- uh, because they’re a dollar, obviously- but also because they are fantastic quality too! Sanding blocks are so helpful to get in tough crevices like the pattern on this trim and save my hands from pinching sand paper that ends up tearing after a while. Buying sanding blocks from Dollar Tree saves me between $3-7 per block rather than buying them from a hardware store- and you can buy them in bulk if you order online! Did you know you could order from DT online?! They have an actually incredible selection of craft/diy items- here’s a photo of the last haul I had there:
I love using Dollar Tree’s dust cloths in my projects because they are washable/re-useable but I also don’t feel bad if I ruin one with paint and have to toss it. Speaking of which… make sure you get rid of all the sanding dust from your project before you start painting! I used my shop vac and dust cloth to get this task done.
Finally, I used one coat of Sherwin Williams’ Multi-purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer/Sealer and then 3 coats of SW’s Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in a custom color to match the white trim in my office. I started by using a paint brush for the paint and it was leaving brush strokes- so I moved to using a small roller- I will only use a roller in the future because there are still brush strokes in the paint (which I could have sanded out before the next layer of paint, I know… but I didn’t). The roller was also helpful to get the paint around the pattern of the trim smoothly with less dripping.
The rough part of using this paint is that it takes about 21 days to fully cure (but is super resilient once fully cured, which is what you want for a bookcase that will have things sliding on and off of it).
SO here she is in the office- what do you think? Let me know below. Let me know if you’re a diy-er there too or if the thought of building makes you squirm a little- always here to help and answer your questions along the way!
If you made it this far, I would love your feedback (i.e., were the instructions clear, when you read DIY blogs are you in it for the quippy commentary too or just get down to business, etc.) let me know below! Also here's a discount code to my online shop for your time! Use code "bettertogether2021" for 10% off your next purchase! Happy shopping and HAPPY DESIGNING!